Mapping Twitter, Unearthing Patterns of Human Communication and Networks

bluewhite twitterSometimes gaining a better understanding of what makes us tick, and what brings us meaning, comes from perspective. Recently a leading research organization, the Pew Research Center, studied interactions between people on Twitter—similar to the methodology of linguists in their work on how we communicate—and from its birds-eye view, created “structures of Twitter conversation networks” (see infographic below).

Why does the center’s study matter? Pew says:

“Social networking maps of these conversations provide new insights because they combine analysis of the opinions people express on Twitter, the information sources they cite in their tweets, analysis of who is in the networks of the tweeters, and how big those networks are. And to the extent that these online conversations are followed by a broader audience, their impact may reach well beyond the participants themselves.”

Cultural critics may find deeper meaning to the analysis. Emerging patterns highlight in-groups and out-groups, voices powerful (Twitter personalities with many followers) and issues significant (topics heavily addressed and retweeted). And the findings may be found only in the Twitter-sphere, but now our connections with others are forged by conversations not made in community parks but in digital forums.

It is a natural propensity for humans to explore territories uncharted. Social media may seem like an unnatural choice for such exploration (instead of clearing paths up a mountain, we are scrolling through tweets and texts), but it is the preferred place of engagement for the masses. The Pew Center says:

“While the physical world has been mapped in great detail, the social media landscape remains mostly unknown. However, the tools and techniques for social media mapping are improving, allowing more analysts to get social media data, analyze it, and contribute to the collective construction of a more complete map of the social media world. A more complete map and understanding of the social media landscape will help interpret the trends, topics, and implications of these new communication technologies.”

The social media community is the new frontier of human experience, and thus worthy of examination; it should not however, undermine communication and networks created in the more traditional paradigm, one defined by interactions that appealed to senses innate to our humanness—seeing, touching and hearing (others). In other words, forge ahead with exploration (of Twitter and the like) and be, in the most authentic sense of the word, with other people.

From “The Six Types of Twitter Conversations” by the Pew Research Center:


For a summary of Pew’s findings, visit here.

Photo credit: Twitter